White Christmas? Philly instead expects a wet Christmas as the planet warms

A person wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks during a winter storm near the Robert Indiana sculpture

A person wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walks during a winter storm near the Robert Indiana sculpture "LOVE" at John F. Kennedy Plaza, commonly known as Love Park, in Philadelphia, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It looks like Philadelphia will not get a white Christmas tomorrow. A wet Christmas is more likely, with a high in the 50s and rain in the forecast.

But the unusually balmy Christmas may not come as a surprise to those who have been watching the thermometer.

Over the last 30 years, Philadelphians have enjoyed just a one-in-10 chance of getting a white Christmas, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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With the planet warming, that chance may be even slimmer, according to data analyzed by Climate Central, an independent group of scientists and journalists. These scientists say it’s likely that more winter precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow.

Still, the way climate change affects snowfall is not uniform, according to the EPA. Some places could actually see more snow if temperatures rise but stay below freezing, while others may experience less because of wintertime droughts.

Winter is the fastest-warming season across Pennsylvania and most of the United States. Warm temperatures broke records earlier this month in several places throughout the Philadelphia region, and scientists said climate change likely contributed.

“Winter is going away,” Jen Brady, a data analyst at Climate Central, told PlanPhilly. “Winter is really shrinking, and we’re seeing that in a large part of the country.”

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According to data analyzed by the organization, the days between Christmas and Jan. 5 have warmed around 5 degrees Fahrenheit in Philly since 1970. Those days have warmed about the same amount in Pittsburgh and nearly 3 degrees in Harrisburg over those five decades.

But just because Philly probably won’t see a white Christmas this year doesn’t mean you should give up on getting snow entirely. According to the National Weather Service, the city gets on average 7 to 8 inches of snow each month following the winter holidays.

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